Harsh critique from Chris Bosh spurred No. 2 Hurricanes’ turnaround

Staff writer Ethan Skolnick and correspondent Christopher Stock contributed to this story.

Chris Bosh won an NBA championship with the Heat last year. This season, Bosh might help the Miami Hurricanes win an NCAA championship.

According to coach Jim Larranaga, a short speech given by Bosh to UM’s players in the summer of 2011 provided the spark that has a resulted in unprecedented success for the second-ranked Hurricanes (22-3, 13-0 ACC) this season.

Bosh had just finished playing in an on-campus pick-up game with the Hurricanes when he was approached by Larranaga.

“What was it like?” Larranaga asked.

“Can I be honest?” Bosh replied.

“Please,” Larranaga said.

“Your guys don’t run the floor (and) they don’t work very hard,” Bosh began. “I barely break a sweat against them. I end up taking jump shots because there’s no real physicality, no real speed to the game.”

Larranaga asked Bosh, who was still feeling the sting of the Heat’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals weeks before, if he would repeat that message to his players. Bosh agreed, meeting with the Hurricanes in the team’s weight room.

“It was the best five-minute talk I’ve ever heard,” Larranaga said.

Bosh began by saying how difficult it was to live with the regret of not playing well enough against Dallas in the championship series and how he planned on “killing himself” during the offseason to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Bosh, Larranaga said, then turned his attention to UM’s players.

“He said, ‘You guys don’t work hard enough. You don’t deserve the success you’d like to have. You can’t compete at the highest level of college basketball with the effort that you’re giving,’” Larranaga recalls Bosh saying. “It was just music to my ears because that was the message we were trying to deliver. Coming from Chris Bosh, it meant a whole lot to the team.”

Asked about his speech, Bosh said last week that he felt “compelled” to make his opinion known after being “disappointed in the intensity that (UM’s players) brought” to the court.

“It’s the little things like that that really matter, that can actually affect what you do in March,” said Bosh, who played one season at Georgia Tech (2001-02) before jumping to the NBA. “I just wanted to inspire them to be more competitive and push each other a lot more because the talent that they had…it was unbelievable.”

Injuries and NCAA-imposed suspensions dogged the Hurricanes last season and conspired to keep them out of the NCAA Tournament.

But heading into Saturday’s game against Wake Forest (11-14, 4-9) in Winston-Salem, N.C., UM appears to have put it all together. The Hurricanes have won 14 consecutive games, one short of the school record, and maintain a three-game lead in the ACC standings with five games to go. An NCAA tournament berth is a certainly. The only thing that remains unanswered is how high will UM be seeded. Most projections have Miami as a No. 1 seed.

While the heavy lifting this season has been done by guys like Shane Larkin, Kenny Kadji and Durand Scott, UM’s players say that credit for the team’s sucess is also due to Bosh.

“You feel bad when Chris said, ‘I’m wasting my time playing with you guys because you guys didn’t really compete the way I thought you would,’ ” said senior center Reggie Johnson. “So you kind of look in the mirror and reflect. When Chris said that, I told him that I appreciated it and ever since then guys were hungry.

“He really had us fired up and everyone responded well.”

The proof can be found in the Associated Press Top 25 where only Indiana is ranked ahead of Miami.

“I think they have a shot [at a national championship],” Bosh said. “In the [NCAA] tournament … you don’t have much room for error. But I think they’re good enough. The only people that can beat them are themselves.”

[Staff writer Ethan Skolnick and correspondent Christopher Stock contributed to this story.]